Africa, Poverty and Renewable Energy

An unpublished letter to the Independent by Geoff Morris of OHV.

June 2005
Dear Sir,
I wish to congratulate Messrs Blair and Brown on achieving the debt relief for some of the world’s poorest countries. I am interested in their agenda for the G8 conference later this summer. I have some proposals which link the twin objectives of helping Africa out of poverty and the use of renwable energy.

A recent Radio 4 Farming programme from Africa highlighted the plight of Kenyan sugar farmers, who were protesting against EU policies. EU surplus sugar is being dumped on the Kenyan market, putting the sugar factory out of business.

It seems ludicrous, that at a time when Messrs Blair and Brown are trying to raise people out of poverty in Africa, the EU is putting poor farmers into penury. Their erstwhile colleague, Mr. Mandelson, the EU’s Trade Commissioner, has apparently promised to phase out the export subsidy in the next 5 years but only if the USA and Japan do likewise. This EU policy has already been declared illegal by the World Trade Organization.

The present state of affairs means that we are paying to transfer some groups of African farmers from self sufficiency into aid dependency. We are paying to give them aid, except that the aid has not yet reached the people for whom it is intended. Why are we creating the very problem we are trying to solve?

The irony of the situation is that by fermenting and distilling the sugar we can produce ethanol, a biofuel, which can be used in petrol to reduce our use of fossil fuels. A scheme has just started in Herefordshire to ferment and distill surplus cider apples for a proposed power station in Ledbury. A reduction in Duty and/or VAT on this biofuel could see it used widely in the UK. We could be looking at a twin-track solution to help achieve both the Government’s targets on the use of renewable fuel and allowing African farmers access to their own markets.

Even President Bush believes there are similar surpluses of vegetable oils word-wide which could be mixed with diesel to make a usable fuel for diesel engines. Similar tax breaks should be available for bio-diesel.

By altering our own and the EU’s policies we could, not only make a dent in the aid crisis in Africa by removing part of the need for the aid in the first place, but also make a significant contribution to meeting the Government’s own targets on the use of renewable energy.

Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown are spending a lot of time removing the speck from other leaders’ eyes. Isn’t it about time they examined their own and the EU’s policies?

R G Morris

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2 Responses to Africa, Poverty and Renewable Energy

  1. Riz says:

    Poverty has been a source of misery for millions within Africa for decades and the forces of globalisation have further perpetuated the levels of poverty. In response to this economic predicament within Africa, the inception to ‘Make Poverty History’ has been hailed as being a positive gesture by the British government, together with charity organisations and various faith groups. Debt relief, alteration to the rules regulating trade with the North and increasing the levels of developmental aid have been pointed out as being crucial to fulfilling the intended aim of eradicating poverty. The aforementioned solutions to eradicate poverty represent a departure from past economic policy, which may be hailed as a major break through by advocates but a deeper insight would indicate no substantial movement away from free market idealism and private sector growth, which represent core tenets of the capitalist economic philosophy. Therefore rather than focusing upon the solutions that have been advocated a deeper issue needs to be analysed and that is whether capitalism can really make poverty history when it has failed to elevate poverty in Africa for decades despite billions in financial aid? Can globalisation powered by the ideals of capitalism really lift millions out of poverty when the rate of inequality between the rich and poor is increasing? To what extent is the West willing to give economic independence to African nations in order to determine their own economic and political future?

  2. Andy says:

    I agree with Riz that the fundamental problem is embedded within the very structure of capitalism as an economic system, with its all-consuming need endlessly to drive down labour costs and seek new markets. After globalisation there is nowhere left to exploit unless they can find alien worlds to dump all the surplus productive capacity onto.

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